The Intersection of Minimalism and Sustainability

If you've been on a simple living journey for longer than a few months, it's probably taken a few twists and turns you didn't expect. I know that's certainly been the case for me.

When I started researching minimalism nearly three years ago, I never would've anticipated I'd be here three years later regularly blogging about it, seeking to simplify more and more areas of my life, and — the most surprising — becoming an advocate for not just simple living, but sustainable living as well.

A couple of weeks ago, during an overnight stop with my best friend on my way down to Florida, we talked about some of the shifts I've made personally regarding sustainability and how much it's become a passion of mine. She laughed a little, because when we met 15 years ago, she was all about those things, meanwhile I was collecting Old Navy flip flops in every color of the rainbow (and then some).

STUMBLING UPON SUSTAINABILITY

Much like minimalism and, by extension, simple living, I stumbled onto my passion for sustainability.

I don't remember exactly when it happened to be honest, but at some point in late 2015 or early 2016, as I continued to minimize and curate my wardrobe, I found myself recognizing that if I wanted fewer items in my wardrobe, they needed to be of a higher quality or I would be at Target buying $8 t-shirts every other month.

This led me to do research on how to find higher quality items, which ultimately led me to an article about fast fashion. In the same way that 7 smacked me in the face with my habits of overconsumption in 2014, this article smacked me in the face with the reality that what I consumed was just as important as how much of it I consumed.

Over the next several months, I continued to do more research and realized that not only are our consumption habits killing us, they're killing our planet as well. Much like that day in October 2014, I knew something needed to change.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY

When you stop to think about it, minimalism and sustainability pair incredibly well together because they share one major belief — quality over quantity.

The minimalist believes it is better to own fewer, higher quality items because it reduces clutter and, by extension, stress. It allows you to spend less time taking care of stuff and more time taking care of things and people you love. It allows you to spend less money on unnecessary purchases and focus it more on the things that are important to you. 

The sustainability advocate believes it is better to own fewer, higher quality items because it reduces the impact on the planet. It lessens the strain on non-renewable resources. It encourages you to view physical possessions as worthy of care and repair rather than something to be discarded at a moment's notice.

Both philosophies have the same result — you buy better so you can buy less.

WHY SUSTAINABILITY IS IMPORTANT

If your entry point to the quality over quantity mindset was through minimalism or simple living, you might not see why sustainability is important. Just like shifting from a traditional consumerist mindset to that of a minimalist, understanding the importance of sustainability requires a shift in mindset as well.

I don't talk about it here on the blog much, but I am a Christian. I believe everything on this earth, from our homes to our physical bodies, is a gift that's been given to us by God, and that includes the earth itself. The Bible is clear about the importance of stewardship — of caring well for the gifts you have been given — and that's one of the major reasons sustainability is important to me.

But even if you don't approach stewardship from the avenue of faith, it's still important to consider how the choices we make now affect our own lives and those of future generations.

Thanks to our current use of plastic for the packaging of countless items combined with its inability to break down, there are now 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in every square mile of the ocean and enough plastic to coat the entire planet in clingfilm. The amount of food wasted each year emits billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air and the United States alone produces 15 million tons of textile waste annually.

The numbers are staggering and if something about what we consume and how much we consume doesn't change soon, our planet could be in real trouble. 

While technological progress and industrialization has done a lot for humankind, it has not always been kind to our planet and it's time we start thinking about the long-term effects of such progress.

Minimalism is about reducing the excess from your life so you can focus on the things that are important. If you ask me, taking better care of this planet we live on is pretty high up there on things that should be important.

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash